Do Ugandan musicians and artists get any protection of the law with regard to copyright breach?

by George Okello via UAH forum

Madagascar Singer Lianah Plagiarizes Irene Namatovu’s Song

How much compensation did Iryn Namubiru get for breach of the copyright of her song Begombeko?. It is one of the greatest songs ever by a Ugandan musician, I love it, but it was copied by Lianah, the Madagascar super star below, all most tune for tune- the only thing different is she Lianiah substitited Malagasy for luganda. I hope Namubiru was not fobbed off with a few shillings, because I think Lianah’s the cover verson sold more than the original.

Iryn Namubiru

On the bigger question, do Ugandan musicians and artists get any protection of the law with regard to copyright breach? I got interested in this because a girlfriend of mine from Nairobi sent me a song by a kenyan musician, a song called Wi Polo (Heaven) , but this was actually a very famous song in Uganda sang by Pastor George Okudi about 5 years ago and the new version is selling like hot cake in Kenya.

Play the Namubiru song and you will she her song has been lifted almost completely without any change at all- the Madasgascar woman makes a better video of the song because Ugandan musicians still dont know how to make good videos to sell their songs.

Madagascar is probably like the Philippines where copy-cat musicians are more popular than the original singers. Making cover versions of popular songs is very common in the Philippines, and the singers who sing others songs are very popular and very rich. There are all sorts of compettions where people compete in singing popular songs and winners sometimes win up to 1 million dollars. And most bars play Karaoke or sing along rather than the actual songs- even if you have never sang in your life life before, your friends will force you to climb to the stage and to sing a song. Mat be Madasgascar is like the Philippiines where nobody cares about copyright. But she sells her songs in France where she lives. That’s why I think the Ugandan musicians should take her seriously because in the Namubiru song, I am told she recieved royalties of $2.5 million!!!! I don’t think Iryn made that by selling her song only in Uganda.

Lianah actually does not need to plagiarise. She is a very successful musician in her own right- she is a genuine super star.In her defence, she said she was helping to promote black African music by putting wonderful songs like Begombeko by Iryn Namubiru on a world stage, without her, Begombeko would have remained listened to only in Uganda, but her cover version of Wala Wala has sold the song world-wide. That argument may hold water, but what about the royalties? I am not sure what Namubiru and Kanyomozi have done or intend to do to protect their songs. I suspect they may not be able to do anything, especially if they sold away their rights to their producer or promoter as often happens with budding musicians- they sign contracts that make them slaves to their producer or record company almost for life- so the company can sell the rights to anyone they want. I think this is highly likely to have happened.


One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Great post, its sad that the issue of copyright is not taken seriously in Uganda, the artistes have failed to effectively mobilize and push for the law and emphasisze its implementation so in the end they suffer. But still in Uganda too Plagiarism is a huge vice, artistes like Bennie Gunter, Fefe Bussi have earned off remakes of popular songs, V.Js translate movies without permission and have made a living out of that so implementation might cut through both sides!!

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